Straddling Europe and Asia, Istanbul is a culture-rich destination with a fascinating history. Its Old City reflects the influences of the many empires that once ruled there. From the Roman-era Hippodrome (for centuries the site of chariot races) and the iconic Byzantine Hagia Sophia, which features a soaring 6th-century dome and rare Christian mosaics; to the Ottoman-era Sultan Ahmet Mosque (Blue Mosque) and Circa-1460 Topkapi Palace, which was home to Ottoman sultans until the 19th century and today contains royal artifacts and rooms that once comprised a large harem. For a faster-paced experience of Istanbul’s modern outlook, the Galata area is known for its d upmarket boutiques while Beyoğlu’s stylish bars lie south of Taksim Square. The city’s eastern, Asian side encompasses residential areas and waterfront districts such as Kadiköy.